Understanding Eskimo Science
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Understanding Eskimo Science
In Richard Nelson’s “Understanding Eskimo Science” a man, Nelson, traveled
below the Arctic Circle in the boreal forest of interior Alaska were he lived, studied
and interacted with a few native Eskimos groups during the mid-1960’s. Throughout
the article Nelson provides an abundance of interesting and relevant information
about Eskimo survival coming about through the understanding of one’s
environment. Nelson’s best argument is the simple fact that these people have
managed to survive in one the, if not the, harshest environment on the planet. There
knowledge is useful, tested and true to the groups as this truly unique understanding
of there world has permitted them to thrive well in these parts. Although the
vegetation is rather scarce the Eskimo’s made due with a diet based mostly on
hunting. But as we find out in the article Nelson describes how these people are well
adapted to the art of hunting. The relationship between man and animal is described
to be one of intricate understanding and respect: “Koyukon hunters know that an
animal’s life ebbs slowly, that it remains aware and sensitive to how people treat its
The Eskimo people have accumulated a massive memory based archive of
scientifically valid knowledge concerning the diverse workings of the landscape of
Alaska. Unfortunately Nelson makes it all too clear that this knowledge is
disappearing and he fears that once gone there will never again be such a deep link
between man and land. On a side note, this arcticle also makes it clear that the
Eskimo’s respect there elders and place them at the head of all that is important as
there knowledge and experience is treasured. They are the teachers of there people
and the identity of the Eskimo is reflected in stores of experience in the minds of
elders like Igruk.
Nelson is most obviously a rational man saying rational things, but as is often
the case with topics concerning native people, this knowledge will probably be lost
in time. This article makes one think about man as a hole. Are we truly happy in our
jungles of steel? Have we not lost something of great importance, something the
Eskimo people have managed to conserve through all these millennia. We have lost
contact with the spirit of nature. We have lost it to a point where our scientist do not
consider Eskimo science (general knowledge) as a valid enough foundation for
conservation. So these knowledge will slowly disappear never to be heard again.
Indeed Mr. Nelson, man has lost his way and one of these rare links to our noble past
is at risk. Yet nothing will be done to conserve it as it is not practical in our so called
“modern day word”. The dominant feeling throughout the article is the incredible
knowledge these people use every day. A vast store of both spiritual and observatory
science that has served the Eskimo well through all these years and has ultimately
provided them with a society base on morals, respect and freedom of thought.
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Ethnic groups in Russia, Eskimo, Koyukon, Epistemology, Central Alaskan Yupik people
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